Emily Brontë Died at Thirty

How Old Are You?

Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing
My wife and I recently watched the movie To Walk Invisible about the Brontë sisters. These amazing sisters created some of the most enduring works of English literature.

The eldest sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics). The youngest sister Anne wrote Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics). The middle sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics).

Their decision to write and publish under male pseudonyms is an amazing story of strategy and perseverance. Charlotte was “Currer Bell,” Anne was “Acton Bell,” and Emily was “Ellis Bell.”

As with all writers in their day, their work was conducted often by candlelight and always by hand with ink and quill on paper. I am writing this post in an online editor with cut and paste, auto-spell check, and the ability to publish to the world with one click of the “publish” button. It is hard to even envision the painstaking effort they expended to bring these works to readers.

There are many aspects to their story that I find amazing, but perhaps the thing that strikes me most is the fact that Emily Brontë lived only 30 years. In fact, her youngest sister Anne lived only 29 years. Charlotte lived only to the age of 38.

I do not measure myself against women who were among the most gifted writers in the English language, but I do draw two lessons from their lives:

  1. Youth should be no barrier. If anyone told them they were too young, the Brontës did not listen. Some of us seem to be waiting until some magic future date when we are of sufficient age to do something important. Go ahead and do it now. Will you get better at it as you get older? Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. In the case of the Brontës, there was no getting older. Life is uncertain and short. That leads to the second lesson…
  2. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started doing something you really want to do and need to do. Don’t wait for later and older. Do it now. Get it started. Do not let resistance paralyze you. If you plan to do creative work (writing, music, art, entrepreneurship), get a copy of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and let it motivate you. The main thing is to act. Now.

I have to confess that while we have had copies of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in our library for years, I have read neither. I am going to correct that soon. I think that as I read them knowing just how young these authors were when they wrote them, it will really reinforce the two lessons above.

Hopefully it will motivate me to act.

How old are you at present? If older than 30, take encouragement from what these young women did at a younger age than you. If you are younger than 30, follow the Bronte’s lead. Make it happen.

Important Book for Parents of Teens

How does that teenage brain work?

At Forward Story we are always interested in information that relates to the way our bodies work and the way families work. I have discovered a book that deals with both. The book is The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

It’s a shame this book was not available when we were raising our teenagers. It might have made the whole experience even more enjoyable for both them and us. Having listened to an interview with Dr. Jensen, who is herself the mother of teenage sons, I believe this book can truly help you if you are a parent, or a grandparent of teens. Also, if you work with teens as a teacher, counselor, or mentor, I think you will be able to produce value from it as well.

If you read the book, please share with us what you think about it:

How I Lost 50 Pounds (Part Three)

The Role of the Large Intestine

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Colon

In Part Two of this series we examined the structure of the small intestine and how nutrients are absorbed from the food slurry that moves through. The muscular process that keeps the slurry moving through the length of the small intestine is called the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). This same process continues to move the slurry out of the small intestine and into the large intestine. Before we move on to what happens to the absorbed nutrients, we need to do a brief overview of the large intestine. The large intestine is also known as the colon. It is “large” in that it is larger in diameter than the small intestine. It is much shorter, though, as the colon is a little less than 5 feet in length. Under normal circumstances the process in the colon from entry to exit takes between fifteen and twenty hours.

Creative Commons Deed CC0

Creative Commons Deed CC0

There are two primary functions of the colon that I want to mention.

  1. Microbiome digestion. Your gut is populated by organisms that are not actually part of you in the way that your organs and cells are part of you. These are actually separate organisms that are the “good bacteria” that help with certain nutrients that could not be broken down higher in the tube. The reality of this colony still surprises and amazes me.  When you see advertising for probiotics, it is this colony of bacteria in your gut that they are claiming their product will help you build and nourish. The common terms used for this colony of good bacteria are gut microbiome or gut flora. Certain foods we eat can help nourish and build the microbiome. This includes cultured foods like yogurt, drinks like kombucha and kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. This microbiome breaks down certain nutrients and allows for the production of vitamin K and other vitamins. So, how many of these good bugs live in your colon? Believe it or not, they number in the trillions with a “t.” It is important to note that while most of the good bacteria is found in the colon, there are also beneficial bacteria that live in the small intestine. Many health issues occur when the good bacteria in the gut do not thrive and when bad bacteria do thrive. Here is an outstanding article on bacteria and the small intestine. I hope to write a separate article later with more detail on the microbiome of the nutrition tube.
  2. Removal of liquids and formation of solid waste. While we did not mention it earlier, water has been absorbed already throughout the small intestine. Now as the process continues, the remaining water is absorbed into the body and solid waste is left in the colon to ultimately be eliminated from the body. The removed water ultimately ends up passing through the kidneys, into the bladder, and out as liquid waste.

There are obviously serious disorders and diseases of each component of the nutrition tube that require the expertise of medical professionals to diagnose and treat. The explanation I have provided in this series is my understanding of how a non-diseased gastrointestinal tract should work. Some of the disorders of the digestive system can be treated with a nutritional approach, but some require more aggressive intervention.

Conclusion

With that much too brief treatment of the colon, we have finished tracking the slurry through the complete nutrition tube from top to bottom. In the next article we will go back to the small intestine where we said that most of the nutrients from the slurry make it through the inner walls and are absorbed into the blood stream. Ponder the thought that these nutrients escape the nutrition tube and enter into your blood. Now they become part of you.

My next questions are:

  1. What happens to these nutrients when they enter the blood stream?
  2. How does the body make use of them, and how does that decision you made several hours earlier to eat 1,000 calories of doughnuts or broccoli impact the body’s chemistry and how those nutrients are used?

As with every question we have asked so far, these are actually very complicated questions. We will explore them in Part Four.

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Identify Your Gaps to Reach Your Goals

IMG_0567 (2)Let’s say you are twenty-five years old and have a goal to become a ukelele player.

Or, let’s say you are fifteen and want to become a doctor.

Perhaps you are fifty-three with a strong desire to be a beekeeper.

Or, let’s say you are seventy years old and want to help relieve hunger in the third world.

Whatever your goals are, you need to identify the gaps between where you are now and what it will take to achieve those goals. What stands in your way? Before you can actually achieve your goal to become a ukelele player, a doctor, a beekeeper, or an aid worker, you have to be honest about what it is going to take to make that happen. If you allow your gaps to go undefined, your goal is just a dream that will likely go unrealized.

What do we do when we encounter a gap or chasm that we need to cross? We build a bridge.

Since some gaps are small and some are huge, there are bridges of all sizes. Some chasms are so large that a bridge is not possible. Have you noticed that there is no bridge from the United States to Ireland? That gap is just too large. We navigate that space in different ways.

Step 1 – Identify the Gap

These are the things missing in your life right now that must be bridged before you can reach the other side. Again, honesty is vital here. You will do yourself no favors by minimizing the task ahead or by lying to yourself about what it is going to take. Be brutally honest in defining the gap. What do you need to learn? Who do you need to meet? What certification do you need to achieve? How much do you need to pay? How long will this take?

Step 2 – Design Your Bridge

Break the bridge down into smaller steps. No one builds a bridge, or a house, or a nation without a plan. Use what you know about the gap you defined in Step 1 to create your plan for bridging the gap. Design it well so that you have confidence it will get the job done.

Step 3 – Start Building

Your bridge will be built by actions. Just as no bridge ever designed itself, no bridge ever built itself, either. The best bridge design in the world will bridge no gap if it is not actually built. Actions taken in the proper sequence will lead you to build the proper bridge and reach your goal. Establishing and following great habits is a key to making these actions effective.

Step 4 – Glance Behind You and Take Heart

Once you have built your bridge and crossed the gap, you will have achieved your goal. Now is a good time to look back over your shoulder at the bridge. See that bridge for what it really is. It is a testimony of the power you possess to envision a Forward Story, to design the practices necessary to achieve it, and to follow through on that design to realize your goal. You should now realize that you can do that over and over again. None of us truly arrive at a point where we have no ambition left. The sense of accomplishment you get from crossing the bridge and achieving a goal provides a powerful shot of confidence that you can use on bridging your next gap.

My gaps are currently gaps in taking my business to the next level and in my health goals. In other words, I am currently working on bridging more than just one gap. I have a couple of bridge-building projects going on right now. As Step 4 explains, I have bridged enough gaps in the past to have confidence that these current bridges that are under construction will take me where I want to go.

What gaps are you trying to bridge at the moment? How is it going?

How to Nurture a Positive Habit

file1431243434522You and I both understand the power of habit. As humans we are wired to repeat behaviors over and over again. Sometimes those habits are “good” in that they lead to excellent outcomes. Other times those habits are “bad,” leading to poor or even deadly outcomes.

I am assuming you can do a quick survey of your life and pick a few bad habits you would like to kick and a few good habits you would like to establish.

Me, too.

Lately through reading, conversation, and experimentation I have learned some helpful things about nurturing positive habits. I will leave kicking bad habits for another day.

There are two methods I have proven (to myself) to work, and there is one that I am eager to try soon. Here they are:

1. Seinfeld’s Red-X

Some experts disagree on how long a behavior has to be repeated until it becomes a habit, but a good number to shoot for is two weeks. If I can do something for two weeks, I will usually incorporate it into my life. Jerry Seinfeld’s method has really worked for me. It is a simple idea. You print a calendar and draw a red X on each day in which you do the behavior. Then string them together with the goal of “Don’t break the chain.” Doing this small practice can lead to big things. It is how I finished writing my book. It can be the way you finally accomplish that thing you have been wanting to do.

2. Write a Journal

This one requires only that you keep some kind of notebook or journal where you date each day and make an entry related to your desired behavior. If the goal is to excercise thirty minutes each day, the entry for today as I write this might be:

April, 22, 2015

Exercise Journal

Today I walked 35 minutes at 6 a.m.

Keeping a log or journal like this helps keep me accountable. It also provides a record which I can review to draw inspiration from.

3. Clear’s Paper Clip Trick

James Clear writes often (and well) on habits and behavior. While I regularly practice the first two ideas above, I have not yet tried this one. However, I will be trying it soon. The idea is that you start with two jars. One contains paper clips (or push pins or pennies, etc.) and the other is empty. When you complete the desired behavior, you move a paper clip from the starting jar into the empty jar. There is some strategy to choosing how many clips to start with. In my case I will use it to help me stay on track with some of the more mundane aspects of my daily work. If I need to make fifteen phone calls, I will start with fifteen paper clips. For more on this strategy, please read Clear’s excellent article here.

How do you nurture good habits? What works for you?